Tag Archive: scanning


Version 3.19 Update (iOS)

Version 3.19 for iOS is live on the App Store since yesterday (Tuesday) evening. We will update the iPad HD app with the same next week. No update planned for our Power Contacts app this month.

What’s New ?

Manual Transcription Push Notifications
Until this update submitting cards for manual transcription by our team had the serious shortcoming of lacking real-time notifications when your cards were ready. This is now fixed: when you update the app to this version you’ll be prompted to allow the app to push notifications to your phone – please say ‘Yes’. Here is how it works:

  • You submit one or more cards for manual transcriptions (from the iOS app or from the Web Sync web interface).
  • You can quit the mobile app and go about your business. As soon as transcription results are available you will get a little notice on the top part of your iPhone screen.
  • Touch the notice and it opens ScanBizCards right onto the transcriptions folder where you’ll be able to find the transcription results. Note: please wait a few seconds to let the app download these results to your phone

Note: manual transcriptions require an active Web Sync account and purchasing manual credits from the web interface at www.scanbizcards.com/websync

iPhone 5 Camera Overlay
The camera overlay when taking photos of business cards failed to cover a portion of the right side of the screen, now fixed.

Take New Photo button
The option to directly snap the next business card photo was crashing – now fixed.

Instructions for copying cards
Upgrading from Lite to Premium means installing a new app and left users confused about what happened to cards held in the Premium app. We have now added clear instructions pointing to our FAQ page.
Our FAQ is seriously lacking and has little else beyond the instructions for copying cards from Lite to Premium! We’ll add much more information to it soon …

Version 3.18 Update (iOS – iPhone + iPad)

Version 3.18 for iOS / Version 1.03 for the iPad are live on the App Store since Sunday, January 13. The major news in this update is a major upgrade of the OCR component – we’d love to hear from the experienced users among you if you were able to notice improvements in the OCR accuracy.

What’s New ?

New OCR Engine – iPhone and iPad

We have upgraded both the iOS and iPad apps with a new version of the OCR engine. Its is about 10% faster and we hope significantly more accurate. Please let us know!

iPhone 5 User Interface (iPhone Lite version only)
The Lite version of the app didn’t have the proper user interface to take advantage of the taller iPhone 5 screen – fixed now.

NEW: Oracle Fusion CRM export – iPhone and iPad
Just like Salesforce and SugarCRM, we are delighted to announce a new export ability to Oracle Fusion CRM! Please help us test it so we can iterate and fix issues – if any – quickly.

SugarCRM Enhancements – iPhone and iPad
We’ve added the ability to assign contacts and leads to campaigns as well as to accounts.

iPad: Fixed Sorting Option
The sort button in the iPad was crashing, now fixed.

iPad: Fixed Evernote Export
The Evernote export had stopped working following a change on the Evernote side – now fixed.

Custom Export
If your business involves processing information on business cards or email signatures, you can augment ScanBizCards to add a new custom export option directly to your application! Please email for details.

New: Ability to assign an account when exporting to Salesforce as a Contact
By popular demand: you may now assign Salesforce Contacts created by the app to any account defined in your Salesforce backend.

Heads up: Power Contacts 1.13

For those of you using Power Contacts (see App Store), an update with a fix to the Evernote export has been posted as well.

ScanBizCards V3.09 Update

Version 3.09 was posted last night (Thursday Oct 13)!

The highlights of this update are:

  • NEW: manual transcription option!
  • Survey! Share your opinion about ScanBizCards and get a chance to earn a $300 Apple gift certificate.
  • Better ordering of scan results
  • NEW: share button to invite friends on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/email (and make money in the process!)
  • Explicit export to Daylite
  • Several Salesforce fixes + new option to export as a contact
  • Reminder: Jigsaw export available for Beta testing.

iOS5 notice: before we go into details a quick heads up – we are being told that our feature to create a contact from the clipboard is not working on iOS5. We are looking into it and will fix this in an update soon.

What’s New

Manual Transcriptions!
This one is exciting. Say you just scanned a card and got disappointing results. Yes, I know what you are thinking – never happens with ScanBizCards! We wish, and we are working on it, meanwhile, yes, it does happen (just don’t tell anyone). We are now launching a brand new service which will let you simply touch a button to request that someone in our transcription team go over that card and manually fix what needs to be fixed! Cards pending review are marked in red then as soon as results are in you will see a message in the app and transcribed cards will turn green. All pending and transcribed cards will also appear in a special folder. Because this is brand new we don’t quite know yet how quickly we will be able to review cards but we are hoping to keep it under 30 minutes, and pricing that service is also not set in stone until we measure how long it takes to rectify cards. The idea is really to offer the best of both worlds: instant OCR results + option to go manual if we missed too many items – and in any case have all extended features of the app available regardless.
Note: at this time it requires an active Web Sync subscription. Please email info@scanbizcards.com if you’d like to join the private Beta of this service.

ScanBizCards Survey
Ready to tell us what you think about ScanBizCards? We’d love to hear your thoughts and have prepared a survey. This survey should take you no more than 15 minutes to complete and if you complete the survey by the closing date (October 24), we will enter you into a sweepstakes to win a $300 Apple gift card. Here is the link to the survey:
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/scanbizcards

Better ordering of scan results
Long overdue. Until now we showed scan results in the order found on the card (top down and left to right). This is really helpful to the ScanBizCards team, to easily associate a text result with a pattern on the card, less useful to our customers who care about the person’s name, title, company etc regardless of where that information was found on the card! Apparently we realized only now that there are more customers of the app than ScanBizCards team members so with this update all cards will display scan results in the same consistent order: name, job title(s), company, phone(s), email(s), URL(s) and address(es). Note that online (Web Sync) we always displayed contact info in that order so now the app is doing the same.

Sharing
We added a new button right on the main page at the bottom to share a recommendation for ScanBizCards with your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn networks or just via email. It offers your friend a link to install the Lite app with another link which then upgrades the Lite app to premium features for 2 weeks. No less importantly, we keep track of these invites and each time one of your friends – even one year later – decides to buy the app, we PayPal you $1! You can be on your way to untold riches, don’t wait :-).
Note: you can track the status of invites and conversions at http://www.scanbizcards.com/tellafriend.php?email=your-email-address (where your-email-address is the email address you provided when sharing from the app). That page also includes a checkbox to request 1 month free Web Sync instead of the $1 PayPal payment each time.

Explicit export to Daylite CRM
Daylite CRM recently added an option to import from ScanBizCards on their new contact page. This update adds an option to initiate this exporting into Daylite from within ScanBizCards. You’ll find the Daylite option right next to the Salesforce export on the export menu. Note: this means you can now export to Daylite any previously scanned card or contacts you capture from text copied to the clipboard.

Salesforce fixes and features
This update fixes several issues with Saleforce accounts where certain standard fields are excluded from the Lead Layout (e.g. Fax and Mobile). The app now download the full list of both standard and custom fields and lets you control which fields you wants to prompted for. We also added a new setting to export to Salesforce as new contacts (rather than new leads).

Jigsaw
ScanBizCards added a feature to export to Jigsaw i V3.08. Jigsaw is a service that enables you to get up to date direct contact info for a great many professional contacts in the Jigsaw database (27m contacts). The way it works is that you earn points for contributing a contact which you can then use to retrieve another contact. I personally use the service and love it.

Note: Jigsaw accepts contacts only in some countries and the app will tell you when you try to export a contact in a country where Jigsaw doesn’t operate. Note also that currently the app doesn’t allow getting credit for updating contacts already in the Jigsaw database, for this you would have to do it on the Jigsaw web site. To be addressed soon. Sign-up at www.jigsaw.com.

IMPORTANT: the Jigsaw feature is in private Beta, to enable please do this:

  • touch Settings on the main screen
  • type this into the Configuration field: var:enablejigsaw=1

By all means do tell us what you think about this feature!

Contacts2Excel
Not that new actually, it was released in April. This is just a little app to select a subset of your address book in a flexible way, select which property you care about, their order and how you want to call them – then export into an Excel CSV file. Useful to export contacts into other apps such as CRM apps or email marketing, to share contacts with others or simply to make periodicals backups of your address book. Try it here . We swear it distracted us from ScanBizCards only for a few days!

Tips of the Month

Tip #1: finding light in dark places. Ever wanted to scan a card in a dimly lit place? Using the flash is not an option as it creates overexposure where it hits the card but there is a solution! Borrow someone’s cell phone or tablet , run an app on it with a light background (such as the iPhone mail app). Hold that other phone face down to shine light on the card and voila, should be a great scan! You can use the same trick with your own laptop, placing the card on the keyboard and half closing the lid to shine light on the card.

Tip #2: starting with this version we start processing cards as soon as you take a photo. This means that you should consider cropping cards before scanning – if nothing else for aesthetic reasons – because we are putting the time you spend doing that to good use!

Rate this Version

You know what to do! Your continued support helps us break the record of being the “idiots” who spent the longest time enhancing a single iPhone app :). Apple saves your last review so it only takes a minute to update a previous review for the current version: tap Help on the start page then “Rate This Version”.

ScanBizCards V3.03 Update

Version 3.03 is available since yesterday evening. Previous update was on February 23 so there are many improvements in this update! First and foremost: accuracy. We have updated the core OCR module and improved our image processing, resulting in a marked accuracy improvement (if you notice – tell us!). In addition we fixed several bugs – including one most users of the LinkedIn function encountered. We have also simplified the calendar Follow-Up Reminders feature to add reminders directly to the iPhone address book.

Last but not least: we are continuing to enhance our recently released Android application one update at a time to bring it up to speed with the iPhone application! Next in line is adding Web Sync into the Android app.

What’s New

Improved OCR: we have updated our core OCR to Tesseract 3.01, benefitting from many months of work by Google (and others) into Tesseract 3.01. It really improves a lot of recognition mistakes around many of the letters, we think you will notice.

Improved image processing: V3.02 delivered most of the improvements in that component but V3.03 furthers that work. Note: if you are curious, watch the black & white image during scanning, that is the result of image processing before OCR and oftentimes OCR issues originate from imperfect image processing.

Simplified Calendar Events: previously you needed to establish a subscription to be able to see ScanBizCards events in the iPhone calendar – no more. Events are now simply created directly into the iPhone calendar. If you used the calendar function before V3.03 we recommend that you delete the ScanBizCards subscription from your iPhone calendar. Note: the new method also means that ScanBizCards events will get synced with other calendars if that has been setup, for example with Outlook via iTunes sync. Please refer to www.scanbizcards.com/faq for details (2nd bullet).

LinkedIn bug: was causing all LinkedIn invites to fail after a certain point, until the app was restarted. Fixed.

Customization: previously, the text of the Quick Intro email, the text of the LinkedIn invite and your own contact info were all editable only while using the corresponding feature and we saved these edits. We now made it easier by adding specific settings for all these.

Tips of the Month

Tip #1:
Use the back side to jog your memory! You just got handed a card and there is no back side to the card? Use the double-sided feature of ScanBizCards to snap a photo of the person!

  • After scanning the front side, tap the Back button to get back to full-screen view
  • Tap the little white “Add Other Side” button overlaid on the image
  • When done snapping the photo, tap “Save Without Scanning” on top (unless the person has something written on his forehead)!

Tip #2:
Want to include a photo of yourself or your card in the Quick Intro email? Easy:

  • Get the photo into the Camera Roll. Note: if you’d like to use the photo of your card scanned within the app, get it into the Camera Roll by doing Forward Card on it, email to self, open the email, long-touch the attached picture, save
  • From the start screen, touch Settings
  • In the Personalize section of Settings, touch My Contact Info
  • Touch the Add Photo button, select the photo from the Camera Roll

Media

A nice recent comprehensive video review of our iPhone app was posted recently by “Crazy Mike”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmlOZlqExQk

Rate this Version

We calculated that for each 1 minute someone spends writing a user review or rating the app, we invest 130 minute improving the app! So you know what to do :-)! Please tap Help on the start page then “Rate This Version”.

And don’t forget about WebSync!

We continue to get feedback on the different ways in which ScanBizCards users are utilizing the Web Sync Web Application. If you haven’t yet given it a try why not try it today? The first month is free so that you can fully explore all it has to offer, and we would love to hear from everyone on the creative ways you’re using it! We’ll be giving away free Web Sync extensions for the most interesting stories we hear! Send your stories to info@scanbizcards.com.

Say hello to your cards online, they miss you!
We have a lot of users who are happy to have their cards safely backed up via WebSync but who have not yet logged in on the web to see all the amazing ways in which you can manage your cards from your desktop!  If this applies to you, we invite you to check out the full featured demo today to see what you’re missing or login to your account to see your cards at www.scanbizcards.com/websync

ScanBizCards V3.02 Update

Version 3.02 was released to the App Store World-wide tonight. It includes a long awaited overhaul of the application’s main page, a fix for a memory leak we have had forever (causing the app to  crash when scanning many cards in a row) and special handling to enable saving contacts directly into Exchange and MobileMe accounts. Last but not least: we are live on the Android Market!!!

What’s New

User Interface Overhaul: Episode I
No more Wrigley-green background with cute icons, we now have a more professional looking main application screen as well as a new Web Sync settings screen, courtesy of Jonathan Moldofsky from JGrant Design. We also took the opportunity to address one common usability issue: our app’s complexity and options make it sometimes hard to figure out what’s tyhe next step. For example, we don’t force the user to save a card to the address book – because oftentimes the user indeed doesn’t want to do that – but then it may confuse some users that at the end of scanning nothing is added to the address book unless you press “Add To Address Book”. Well, now we paint that button blue, to highlight it as a recommended next step – and do a similar coloring on other screens. We call is “Episode I” because we are not done redesigning the UI, there is more to come.

Memory Leak Solved
To most users a memory leak means simply a crash after using the app for a while. This has been a problem within the app for many month, causing for example to crash when scanning 16 cards consecutively on an iPhone 3GS. No more – we can now scan in excess of 75 cards in a same session on the iPhone 3GS and much more on the iPhone 4.

Saving Contacts Directly into Exchange and MobileMe
Users of Exchange and MobileMe often ran into trouble getting new contacts saved into the iPhone address book to sync with their external mail account. No more: we now list all foreign address books and all groups under them in the ScanBizCards group assignment function. I believe we are the only scanning app giving that level of control for groups.

Web Sync Improvements
Take a peek at your cards on http://www.scanbizcards.com/websync – we made several usability improvements: the search box is now on the cards view screen itself and so are the sort buttons. Now that search and sort were kicked out of the left bar, it enabled us to open up all menu groups – you may discover a feature you didn’t know existed! Note: If you don’t use Web Sync yet, say hello to our demo cards instead at www.scanbizcards.com/webdemo

ScanBizCards is LIVE on the Android Market!
As of last Sunday, February 21, it’s official: ScanBizCards is now running on thousands of Android phones. It wasn’t easy and it took over 5 months but our Android, C++ and Java expert Yuval Kohavi did it. If you have an Android device, give it a try, here is a link to the app on the Android Market. It still lacks many of the extended features of the iPhone version but we’ll try to close the gap soon.

Press

A very nice comprehensive review of ScanBizCards was posted by Crazy Mike on Friday, watch it below!



Other press events:

  • A fresh review by Derek Walter posted tonight on a new app review site TheAppPlanet.com, showing the new V3.02 UI.
  • ScanBizCards has been chosen as a finalist in the APPY Awards 2011 (check the Productivity category)!
  • Appolicious on ScanBizCards Lite
  • Sandira Calviac on ScanBizCards as an essential tool at conferences

Rating
We need your support reviewing the app – or re-reviewing the current version! These shortcuts take you directly to the appropriate App Store page:

ScanBizCards V3.01 Update

Version 3.01 was released to the App Store World-wide last night. The main purpose of this update is another round of improvements to the image processing stage of the scanning process but we also added a number of usability improvements.

What’s New

Improved Image Processing
Image processing produces the black and white image you see halfway through the scanning process. Its correctness in detecting letters and isolating them from the background is crucial to the OCR process. This update helps render blurry text a little better and eliminates more non-text noise. We are continuing to work on this component in the capable hands of our resident image processing PhD Michael Kolomenkin.

New Virtual Folders
At the request of Laura Walton we added a new virtual folder shown before all others entitled “All Cards”. This addresses the inability of browsing through all cards regardless of which folder they belong to. Within that folder we added a new button to each card displaying which folder the card belongs to: touching that button opens the folder in question.

Improved Search Navigation
Until this update when searching cards and opening one, the “Back” button from card view was taking you back to the containing folder instead of the more sensible set of search results. This is now fixed by adding the folders buttons to search results, thus eliminating the need to return from card view to search results.

Bug Fix: Crashes
Version 3.0 introduced several bugs causing crashes with some cards. This is the result of the excellent work done in recent work by our C++ guru Yuval Kohavi to support international languages and Android phones – but which had the side effects of turning dormant yet harmless pre-existing bugs into crashes … all fixed now, we hope.

Bug Fix: Web Sync Auto-Save
The way editing card data on the web works, changes are automatically saved every 2 seconds. Unfortunately, a quick user leaving the edit page too quickly after making edits may lose these edits as reported by some of you! We are addressing this issue this week, possibly later today. Meanwhile we have fixed this situation to not erase the previous content of the text field and instead only discarding the last change.

Say Hello To Your Cards Online!
So Web Sync is diligently backing up each card you scan – but how about paying your cards a visit online! They miss you … go to www.scanbizcards.com/websync, log in using the same credentials you used for Web Sync in the app and see what you get. Warning: you might find it addictive and neglect your iPhone to play with your cards online instead! If you don’t use Web Sync yet, say hello to our demo cards instead at www.scanbizcards.com/webdemo

Heads Up : Android Version still in Beta testing
It’s almost ready – want to help us test it? Shoot yuval.kohavi@scanbizcards.com an email, it’s a very easy installation process.

Rating
We need your support reviewing the app – or re-reviewing the current version! These shortcuts take you directly to the appropriate App Store page:

ScanBizCards V3.00 Update

Version 3.00 was released to the App Store World-wide at noon today. This is a major update for us – hence the jump from V2.78 to V3.00 – and it took us 2 months to get it ready. The two main themes are:

  • International Support: we now scan cards in 22 languages, up from only one until now (English). This is long overdue and we hope it helps our international friends.
  • Affiliate Program: we want to pay YOU for something you already do, recommending the app to friends. Get started towards untold riches now J … details below.

This update also provides a significant accuracy improvement through a better image processing and simplifies some of the user interface.

What’s New

International Support
ScanBizCards now support non-English business cards for the very first time. Supported languages are: Czech, Danish, English, German, Greek, Finnish, French, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovakian, Spanish, Serbian, Swedish, Turkish, Vietnamese.
The language support means two things: first and foremost it means that special characters and accents in these languages are recognized. It also means that we try to understand what constitutes a job title, street address and other elements in that particular language – and to improve this part we really need your help! Use the “Report A Problem” button liberally!

Note: Russian and Greek recognition require scanning twice:

  • Step 1: Scan in Russian or Greek
  • Step 2: Review each item and validate (save) each item properly recognized in that language. URLs and email addresses will not appear correctly at that stage and can be ignored or swipe-deleted.
  • Step 3: Scan again in English. This will preserve the Russian/Greek items found previously and add recognition of English text on the card such as email addresses.

Refer A Friend
We know you recommend the app to others and we thought it would be great if we could express our thanks. This is what we did: if you touch the Help button within the app (little “i” on the top right of the main page), you’ll find the usual “Refer A Friend” link, except that it now does more. For starters, the friend(s) who receive the invitation to try the app will now benefit from a brand new free trial program we implemented whereby he installs the Lite application then gets it upgraded to Premium for two weeks. Second, if that friend likes the app and upgrades at any time during or after the trial period, in-app or by installing the Premium app, you get $1! That’s right, $1 straight into your PayPal account at the end of the month. You can track the progress of those invites and the credits earned at any time at http://www.scanbizcards.com/tellafriend and entering the email address you used to receive the PayPal payments. You can also save time by using http://www.scanbizcards.com/tellafriend?email=your-email-address–goes-here

Note #1 – Converting credits to Web Sync months: for those of you using Web Sync, you can have the referral credits automatically applied each towards one month free Web Sync. Just make sure to use the email address you use for Web Sync when referring friends then check the Web Sync box on the “Tell A Friend” page (see URL above).

Note #2 – Vanity Refer A Friend URLs: you can make the same recommendation of the app on your blog, newsletter etc – just insert the same URL for the free 2 weeks upgrade with your email address – see http://www.scanbizcards.com/tellafriend for details how it’s done. Better yet: that page lets you create a URL that’s easier to remember, called a “Vanity URL”.  A vanity URL makes it easy for your friends to remember if you tell them about it in person (or if you are standing outside the Grand Central train station during rush hour urging everyone to try the app).

Improved Accuracy
This is a constant ongoing work for us. This update provides a significant improvement to accuracy by doing a better job at pre-processing images before text recognition. You should note the difference while watching the black & white image shown mid-way during scanning.

Going Black!
The folders view and cards list views now sport a cool black background – tell us what you think!

User Interface Improvements
We did a few things to streamline and simplify the flow of processing new cards, including:

  • New buttons after adding a card to the address book: directly take the next photo or “Do More With This Card” which mean go back to full-screen card view to do more with that card such as moving it to a custom folder, sending a Quick Intro email, adding a Calendar Follow-Up reminder etc. Until now, “Do More” was the only choice – but sometimes you just want to add a card to the address book …
  • New “Home” shortcut on the cards list view
  • Scanning new cards also trims the card image automatically (there is a setting to disable that behavior)
  • Better organization of settings: we still have lots of settings, but at least now they are organized in sections with explanations for each setting (truth is we did it for Danny who kept forgetting what these settings do).

iOS4.2 Address Book Groups Bug Fix
A nasty iOS4.2 issue was causing us to fail at assigning contacts to groups – now fixed.

Say Hello To Your Cards Online!
So Web Sync is diligently backing up each card you scan – but how about paying your cards a visit online! They miss you … go to www.scanbizcards.com/websync, log in using the same credentials you used for Web Sync in the app and see what you get. Warning: you might find it addictive and neglect your iPhone to play with your cards online instead! If you don’t use Web Sync yet, say hello to our demo cards instead at www.scanbizcards.com/webdemo

Sharing, bulk upload: and while you are looking at your cards online, note the option to share a custom folder with others (w/optional password): open a folder, click “Sharing Settings For This Folder” on the top right. Note: does not work for Recent Cards, only named custom folders. Also: under “Batch Actions” note the option to import many card images at once into your Web Sync account, which mean into the Recent Cards folder of your iPhone later.

Heads Up : Android Version in Beta testing
It’s almost ready – want to help us test it? Shoot yuval.kohavi@scanbizcards.com an email, it’s a very easy installation process.

Rating
We need your support reviewing the app – or re-reviewing the current version! These shortcuts take you directly to the appropriate App Store page:

Using a Tripod

Thanks to a tip by a ScanBizCards user, I have recently discovered a truly amazing solution to most of the challenges inherent in taking good photos of business cards: the Joby Gorillamobile mini-tripod for the iPhone. Set it at just the right height (have the text fill as much of the screen as possible), make sure the iPhone is perfectly parallel to the desk and you essentially get the very best photos you can take with your iPhone. No more shaking/blurriness and the text is as large as can be (which is key to OCR). You can now touch the screen to help the iPhone focus without fear of making the camera shake. It takes a minute to twist the legs of the tripod to get it to be at just the right but then all your photos come out just right …

I have a Gorillapod tripod myself and I highly recommend it! Note: the iPhone 4 version has just been released, if you have the iPhone 3G/3GS make sure to select the older model of the Gorillapod.

Patrick's Gorillapod in action

Photo Taking Tips

We need your help! A great scan is only possible one a great photo of a business card – and we mean great. That’s not to say it’s easy to take good photos of business cards, far from it, in fact taking good pictures of business cards is almost an art! The good news is that after a bit of practice, anyone should be able to take great photos in any normal light condition. Witnesses can confirm that I have been the star attraction scanning business cards in a crowded bar with dim lighting (really).

One more thing before we go into details of picture taking: many expect optical character recognition (OCR) to “just work” and pretty much recognize text in any photos where they can read the text. This is a major source of disappointment to some because OCR apps don’t have the insights people have and may fail on photos where a person can still make out the text. So we need you to help by taking the very best pictures you can take! If you are disappointed with any scan result, please email it to us at info@scanbizcards.com so we can tell you what’s wrong.

iPhone 4s, iPhone 4 or iPhone 3GS required
Let’s start with your camera. If you are using the iPhone 3G (sold at Apple stores until mid-June 2009 but also offered beyond June at AT&T stores), you’re in trouble … a quick check if you are not sure: run the camera application and check the bottom right of the gray toolbar at the bottom. If it has a slider to select still pictures or video, you’re good, it’s the iPhone 3GS or later. Otherwise, here is the problem: the iPhone 3G camera is not able to focus at the close range required to take clear images of business cards. The best you’ll be able to do is something like this – and that’s barely readable to the human eye, let alone to an OCR program. A solution for the iPhone 3G is to purchase the Griffin Clarifi close-up lens accessory, I recently spoke to a ScanBizCards user who reported scanning upwards of 80 cards with the iPhone 3G and this lens, although he did mention experiencing 60% or so accuracy which is not as high as we achieve with other models.
UPDATE: unfortunately the recently released iPod Touch 4 is also not suitable for taking good images of business cards. This time the issue is not so much the close-up ability, it’s simply the low resolution: only 1M pixels (compared to the iPhone 3GS 3M pixels and the iPhone 4 4M pixels).
UPDATE 03/2011: sure enough, the camera of the new iPad 2 unveiled March 11, 2011 is also not suitable for taking good images of business cards. Its back-facing camera has the same resolution as the iPod Touch 4 and the front-facing camera is worse.
UPDATE 11/2011: the iPhone 4S really rocks for ScanBizCards – much faster scanning, photos are super sharp which means higher OCR accuracy, and the flash really works well which means it’s feasible to take photos of cards in pitch darkness (really).
Of course if you have an iPod Touch 4, iPhone 3G or iPad 2 you always have the option to take pictures using a different camera or scanner, import them into your device, scan them to then use any of the ScanBizCards features. Subscribers to the optional Web Sync service can upload card images in bulk which really makes the process very easy: uploaded cards are synced back to the device and you will find them in Recent Cards ready to be scanned.
ANDROID:If you are using our application on Android phones: Android is new (and exciting) for us but there are many different devices and we would appreciate your feedback about the photo quality on your phone! So far we have found that all Android 2.0 phones we had tested had adequate camera but please let us know if it’s not the case for your device: open a scanned card within the app and use the “Forward Card” action to send us a copy.

Use a Tripod!
A truly amazing solution to most of the problems below is the Joby Gorillamobile mini-tripod for the iPhone: set it at just the right height (which means having the text as large as possible), make sure the iPhone is perfectly parallel to the desk and you essentially get the very best photo you can take with your iPhone. No more shaking/blurriness. You can now touch the screen to help the iPhone focus without fear of making the camera shake. I have a Gorillapod tripod myself and I highly recommend it! Note: the iPhone 4 version has just been released, if you have the iPhone 3G/3GS make sure to select the older model of the Gorillapod.
Patrick's Gorillapod in action

Bigger is Better
Size does matter when it comes to OCR – larger text scans much better – so try to have the card fill-up as much of the camera viewport as possible, which means get as close as possible while still capturing the text you want.

Parallel
Have the card edges be parallel to the camera viewport – OCR software assumes text lines are more or less horizontal are are tolerant only of a reasonable angle. Pretend you are parallel-parking at your driver license test with a particularly demanding examiner!

Natural or diffuse light
Natural light is best and the main reason is that it’s diffuse and it’s white light. This is why images scan actually better in the morning light than in the afternoon where direct sun light creates non-uniform coloring on the card background. In particular, stay away from incandescent light bulbs or at least keep your distance. This image is a case where I fell victim myself when I thought I’d get best results right under a spotlight – big mistake, just using the natural light in the room one feet away from that light produced much better results [Update: ScanBizCards V2.70 and beyond actually does well on that card now that we preprocess the images to handle such issues but it’s still best to avoid these situation – if only to have better looking pictures in the 3D cards view!]

Steady
If the text is blurred, the card is almost certain to not scan properly at all. Because the image is taken at close range, any movement will cause significant blurriness. Holding your breadth does help, and so does leaning against a wall (don’t laugh – in fact you can lean against a person too) but the easiest way to help with the stability is to make sure the card itself is steady, by placing it on a desk instead of holding it in your hand. This is obviously not possible if you are performing party tricks in a crowded bar or if you need to get the card closer to a light source. A couple of business card scanning applications implement a feature to capture the image when no motion is detected, which helps – we have on the to-do list to implement this feature as well.

Shadows
It’s very difficult to take a close-up image of a business card without casting a shadow on the card. Architects have an annoying tendency to attach lights to ceilings rather than floors, the sun is inconveniently placed above our heads most of the day and Apple made the iPhone screen so big compared to a business card (as if having a great multimedia experience and running apps on a great looking screen was more important than taking good pictures of business cards) that by the time you placed a card flat on a desk and came close to it so that it fills the screen, your chances of not casting a shadow are slim. It’s clearly a conspiracy against business cards and shadows used to be a vexing problem for us, killing the ability of the OCR to recognize text in the obscured areas. I am happy to report that starting with ScanBizCards V2.70 we efficiently preprocess the image to remove shadows prior to recognizing text so hopefully this particular issue should be behind us. As I result, I had to move this image from the “Scanning Failures” section of our sample images page to the “Good Images” section.

No reflections
Unlike shadows where the text is still identifiable, there is no recovering from reflections hitting text on a card. They just obliterate the text they hit and even if a reflection kills only a portion of a letter, you might still recognize it but the OCR won’t. Direct exposure to sun rays may cause reflections and glossy cards may cause reflections in any lighting situation and may be hard to avoid entirely: in that case, try to move the card a bit until the reflections hit areas where there is no text.

Focus Not you, the camera … the iPhone 3GS has a built-in autofocus which usually does a great job at focusing on the card but on occasion, it doesn’t or – more precisely – is not yet or no longer in focus because your hand moved. You can help it along by touching the card image, within the pale blue focus square in the middle of the viewport or on a different part of the image if you’d like to focus there instead. Important: Nicolas Nelken pointed out an interesting tidbit about the iPhone 3GS focus. If you place the cards on a dark background and touch the background to focus there instead of on the card, the iPhone will brighten up the lighter part of the image, resulting in a much brighter card image, which may scan better but also looks better in the “cover flow” 3D view.

Rescan
If an initial scan of a card was generally good but missed out entire sections or specific lines, this may call for a “rescan”, which means scanning the image again but this time cropping the image only around the missed text. Important: ScanBizCards “starts fresh” when rescanning a section of the image by removing items from a previous scans. If the previous scan includes elements you want to preserve, please validate them in the “View Details” screen, which means touching the item then touching “Save” to confirm (even if not making changes to the item). You can tell an item is validated by the fact that it shows a little check mark next to it instead of the usual arrow. We’ll take it as a cue that you are happy with this item and will not replace it when rescanning.

References

  • Gallery: you may find it useful to take a look at our Sample Images page for examples of good and bad images of business cards (there is a link to that page within the application’s help as well).
  • Samples: we also included a handful of images within the application itself, under the “Sample Images” card folder, you are welcome to scan them and see what happens
  • Support: disappointed by a card image you feel we should have scanned better? Please forward that card image along with the text results (we will keep the card strictly confidential). Just use our Send To Friend function from the Card View screen and email it to info@scanbizcards.com.

ScanBizCards V2.78 Update

Version 2.78 was released to the App Store world-wide last night. We have two exciting announcements to make: a brand new Web Sync 2.0 card management is ready, and we teamed up with Vistaprint to provide a one year free Web Sync subscription (or a free premium upgrade to Lite users) to anyone who makes a purchase via www.vistaprint.com/scanbizcards – details below.

What’s New

Web Sync 2.0
The Web Sync site has been enhanced with such a long list of features that it’s now very clearly a (web-based) desktop application on its own right, and includes many functions not possible on the iPhone. Here are the highlights:

  • Completely revamped card display and edit screens: elegant, easy to use, auto-saving changes, one-click zooming on images while editing
  • Contact-style information: contact properties are presented in a consistent order regardless of where the info was on the card
  • List View: in addition to the Web Sync 1.0 Thumbnail View and Map View, we added List View – a tabular text list showing more information about cards, easier to sort visually by various properties
  • 3D Card Flow View: similar to the 3D view within the app. This one is definitely a Beta version (you’ll see)!
  • New export abilities:
    • Export a card to VCard: gives you full control to add the cards you want, when you want, to your desktop contact app such as Outlook or the Mac Address Book, freeing you from the intricacies of syncing via iTunes
    • Export multiple cards to Excel: just like the iPhone function
  • Bulk upload: you can now upload multiple card photos directly from your desktop into your Web Sync account
  • Sharing: you can now define groups of cards you wish to share with colleagues. You tag the cards you want, give the collection a name and you get a URL everyone can access from any browser.
  • Speed: the Web Sync UI now loads very, very fast. We have upgraded our servers for increased availability and speed.

If you already have cards backed up to Web Sync and have not accessed them lately, they miss you! Pay them a visit at www.scanbizcards.com/websync – if you forgot your pwd, there is a link on that page to reset it. And if you never tried Web Sync, watch the cards of our demo account at www.scanbizcards.com/webdemo, the instructions for the demo are “click everywhere” and see what happens!

Auto-crop Images
Until this update cropping an image before scanning only affected the scan and the image thumbnail in list view but not the image itself you see when opening it again later and you would have needed to crop the image to adjust it. Now cropping before scanning also crops the image itself, saving an extra step. Note: this is permanent so don’t crop away parts of the image you wish you didn’t! If you’d rather keep the old behavior, there is (yet another) setting for that (“Crop Image On Scan”).

Displaying Preprocessed Image
As you know, images are processed before performing text recognition. It’s an important part of the process and for problem cards text recognition failures often originate at the image processing stage. We thought it could be useful to show the processed image to help you identify problem areas in the photo so this image is now displayed during scanning. You can turn that off by disabling the “Show Processed Image” setting. Note: we are working on improving our image processing so problems you’ll spot now may be solved in a future update but do report issues as you encounter them.

Calendar Times Bug Fix
A nasty iOS4 bug was setting times that were off by a few hours for calendar reminders, now fixed. Heads up: in an update soon we are going to do away with the need to subscribe on the iPhone to synchronize ScanBizCards events with the iPhone calendar (subscribing will still be available to sync with Outlook, iCal or Google calendar).

Search Box on Start Screen
We thought it could be convenient to be able to search for cards right from the start screen so we added a search box there. Love it? Too crowded? Please tell us what you think.

New Shortcut
Some of you pointed out that it takes many touches after scanning an image to get back to the start screen to snap the next photo. We added two options to the screen after adding a card to the address book: do more with the current image (any of the post-scan features we have) or directly snap the next photo.

Vistaprint: FREE Premium upgrade or one year Web Sync
You get business cards all the time so you probably hand them out – we are excited to announce that if you buy your next set of business cards at Vistaprint through our joint URL at www.vistaprint.com/scanbizcards, you get all this:
1. 250 free business cards
2. 25% OFF site-wide
3. A ScanBizCards credit to upgrade the Lite app to premium at no charge, get a one year web sync subscription or gift the Premium app to a friend.

What’s not to like :-)? Vistaprint is the leading provider of business cards and other print and digital marketing product and services. They ship World-wide, I have printed my cards with Vistaprint since the 1990’s and have found no reason to look elsewhere.
So how does it work? Just start your purchase at www.vistaprint.com/scanbizcards and after you complete a purchase, touch the Vistaprint “Redeem Promo” button on the start screen of ScanBizCards on your iPhone and choose your freebie.

Press

A very kind review of ScanBizCards in the leading iPhone blog in Canada, iPhoneInCanada. Note: there is a URL at the end of the review providing an upgrade of Lite installation to premium until October 21 so if there are any Lite users reading this go ahead and click that link!

The Washington Post wrote an editorial on the outlook for business cards. Note: it’s a bit strange that I was quoted as merely “not the enemy of business cards” considering I scanned more than 4,000 cards this year, 1,700 of which are still on my phone!

Rating
Only one user review for V2.78 so far (thank you “slick”!). Want to add your view or re-affirm a previous review? These shortcuts take you directly to the appropriate App Store page: